The event on the 25th September 2021 was part of the official selection of the International Translation Day by the English PEN and the National Centre for Writing.
This is a short and semantically multi-layered play which tackles gender and power-issues in a situation set on the verge of the post Anthropocene world. In spite of the grim topic, the irony and the possible plot-twists will save us from immersing ourselves into dystopia.
The intrinsic complexity of the piece does not stop at simply tackling the stereotypes of our societies, but also mischievously plays with the possibilities of swapping roles, until the very end. The last couple of seconds are left open to the readers’/spectators’ interpretation as well.
We found it especially intriguing to have the piece translated from English into Hungarian and see how different cultures, languages, conceptions, ages, genders will affect this endless game of fascinatingly diverse interpretations.
Just a couple of questions that occurred during the English and Hungarian rehearsed readings and open discussions at the event:
What circumstances lead to de-humanisation?
How objectification reflects back on the perpetrator?
How our intelligence and emotional intelligence is shaped by our circumstances?
How AI might translate, interpret and react to our languages and feelings?
Will the present status quo be challenged at a certain point in the future? How? By whom?
For a full-rounded cultural and linguistic experience, we kindly advise you to watch both the Hungarian and English versions, and taste the exquisite palette of the re-framing and interpretation of the artists.
We are all looking forward to reserching further approaches, re-readings, interpretations, translations and designs of this piece.
Following the positive responses of our International Translation Day event, also the manifold possible interpretations of the text, we managed to arrange a second event, where further gender, age, culture and language-related nuances came to the forefront.
This time we discussed how non-binary cast might affect the language and the socio-cultural representation and interpretation of the same text.
Spanish is a gendered language – along with many other Romance Languages -, where substantives and pronouns have defined binary expressions for centuries. As opposed to the English gender-neutral pronoun ‘they’, which is already existent in the language, in Spanish the ending X, with its different pronunciations, are new addenda to the common language and its use requires constant attention from the part of the speaker or writer.
We also observed how changing certain aspects and angles of the interpretation, such as cultural background, language, gender, age will always lead to certain dichotomies and power-unbalances. However, approaching the text, the situation and the characters from a more generic, non-hierarchal and de-colonial point of view, we see how any kind of othering leads to a new power-struggle, leading to a multiplication of the colonial structure. A new, all-encompassing socio-cultural structure would be needed to reframe these dichotomies into eye-level dialogues.
ABSTRACT: In her article “‘IF’: Planning, Research and Co-creation of an Existential Installa-tion-performance” Rita Sebestyén offers an account of the research period and perfor-mances of the experimental, action-research based and interdisciplinary performance ‘IF’. The installation-performance was co-created by a group of Norwegian, Danish, Swedish and Hungarian artists, and conceived and produced for an international au-dience. ‘IF’ poses a series of existential questions throughout four interactive installa-tions that allow the audience to interact and become co-creators of the performance, together with the performer-facilitator. Using biology, anthropology, mathematics, elements of gamification, sociology and futurology, this performance is a cross-dis-ciplinary and cross-genre experience, and its research cycles are of both scientific and artistic interest, as the author points it out. Keywords: art and science, performative pedagogy, gamification, co-creation, action research.
IF is a cross-over genre: a participative performance using four interac-tive installations that invite the audience into different levels of action and interaction, by choosing life-circumstances: gender, lifespan, friends, relations, society and future. A performer leads the whole game of ex-istence, orientating the audience among the rules of the games; reacts and responds to their actions, and, at well-defined moments, acts out roles related to the four stages-installations. The stages are construct-ed around four different algorithms, which gradually lead the audience from strict rules to choices, this way giving the opportunity to them to take the performance over, step by step. Participants can choose at each stage the level of their activity from watching to acting, and can de-cide on the gender, lifespan, personal characteristics. They receive small human figures as avatars to represent their game-selves in this parallel world. In this specific space, the audience and the performer, even the light- and sound designer can freely mingle, without being confined by the classical partition of stage and auditorium. The first stage is a small laboratory: a microscope placed on a white glass table and connected to a computer. The samples placed under the microscope can be observed magnified on the screen of the computer. The second stage is a min-iature garden on a big size round mirror: soil, small stones, water and plants can be placed and arranged on it. Later on, the five-six centime-tres tall human figures will be placed here. The third stage seems to be a playground with five societal hardships, written in chalk on the ground, which, during the performance, will come alive similarly to a manipu-lative TV-show, with red and white elastic lightbulbs. The fourth stage is a transparent plastic cube, filled with water. Here, at the end of the game-performance, the participants will decide how and who can be saved from the former hardships and go towards the hope of smoother waves. We provide the audience with a set of rules at each stage to build a parallel identity, community, society, and their own interwoven nar-ratives. The performer oscillates between the role of an actor and that of a facilitator. From this phase we started researching together with various audiences. Due to the multitude of artistic and scientific fields included in our work, in the following I will refer exclusively to prima-ry literature. Further description proceeds along the following steps: 1) Research environment concerning venue, community, terminology and the text of the performance, 2) Research method including planning, action and evaluation and finally, 3) The outlook towards a new episte-mology of collaborative performances.
Online storytelling and community building workshops
We had the pleasure of welcoming Rita Sebestyen, PhD, to Wellbeing Wednesdays, an inclusive, online platform of weekly sessions and activities run through Zoom designed to follow the 5 steps to wellbeing: connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give.
Rita delivered two online sessions for our programme during May and June 2020. These sessions were interactive workshops, designed to explore how we can talk about our own experiences, boundaries and memories in a safe and comfortable way, using relational storytelling exercises.
The participants in the online sessions were largely unknown to each other, and very few have ever met in person. The gradual rhythm of her sessions, and the clear and slow paced instructions, enabled participants to slow their own rhythm and focus their minds. Using techniques to move sideways through experience and memory, Rita enabled participants to explore personal storytelling in an accessible and inclusive form. Her structured but adaptable sessions empowered participants to feel in control over their own journey during the sessions, reflecting on their own boundaries, memories and stories.
An engaged and attentive facilitator, Rita leads her workshops with respect and presence, responding whole-heartedly to each participant’s story and fully incorporating everyone’s contributions. Her broad knowledge and cross-disciplinary approach left participants in awe of her work, and grateful for the opportunity to take part in her temporary and creative community space.
Wellbeing Wednesdays Coordinator and Higher Education Parent Carer Champion, neaco/University of East Anglia (UEA)
I have carried a tile with me, a little bigger than the size of my palm. It had been blank before I lined some cobalt, vermillion, ocher or realgar, and emerald to make it a work of art. It seems to me one of the best from kids’ arts. For the hues I happened to choose for it are as classic as those favored by masters of Chinese watercolors, and the lines are as simple and neat as some of landscape drafts from Rembrandt.
I have carried it with me from my urban origin to New Zealand where I spent one and a half year, and finally took it back to the inland Elysium, Chengdu, where I choose to work. So many other objects come and go in my life hustle. They usually are lost in hectic shippings or broken by use and abuse. No small surprise when I was cued by the fact that my little piece of tile art had survived the metabolism of my belongings, of objects.
How did I make it?
Schools bid the urban young “go mingle with peasants, go experience rural area”. So they make secondary school students in the city go through this education session, that is to get educated by the rural, of around two weeks. I went through the session when I was 14, and it taught me to make rural art. At first the instructor had laid out the procedure of making tile art, we, a bunch of rats who had no idea of drawing anything, were commanded to craft our own version of the artistic design. Easy work: I just copied the pattern on the china pen baskets in the studio. The ancient pattern was transformed into nineteen heads of auspicious clouds floating and taking up two thirds of the tile square. Then I curtailed the pattern into a dozen skewed strikes and stacked them to symbolize a boulder, where a branching pine grows out of it. Yellow or brown for boulder, red for clouds, blue for pine trunk, green for pine needles. The rest was as milk white as the tile itself. Out of the furnace that gave the tile lasting sheen from glaze was this art of mine.
This was how I crafted my Ph.D thesis later. It turned out copying and transforming, with a bit of imagination and brush style.
Everything has been growing out of the flow and structure I gave for this little tile.
Περίμενε υπομονετικά. Με ολόσωστες πλευρές και άκρες κολλημένες με πολύ καλής ποιότητας χαρτοταινία. Πάνω του κολλήθηκε και ένα γράμμα με τα στοιχεία μου και τα στοιχεία του. Ένα αρχείο που επικυρώνει την σχέση μου μαζί του.
Waiting patiently. With all its sides and edges glued with very good quality paper tape. A letter with my personal info and its details was affixed to it. A file that validates my relationship with it.
A single hotel room while the guest is away. His room is surprisingly tidy. Dusting the wardrobe I observe how his good quality clothes were folded and organized in a perfect way. I sense a very familiar, good vibe. Then there is a drawing on the desk. It was drawn with the pen provided by the hotel on a small piece of paper taken from the noteholder. It is a tree with a disproportionately big fruit on it, an almost heart shaped strawberry. I immediately know that I saw this before somewhere. I recognize every line, every detail of it.
Have I drawn this myself before? Or will I draw it in the future? What if years later I will come back as a guest to this hotel and I will doodle this while talking on the phone? If it’s me, will I remember this moment of finding it? Why would I avoid meeting myself? I would probably think that leaving this sketch on the desk is a sufficient gesture to remind myself about the illusion of time.
Am 42 de ani și deja nu mai romanțez ideea de a avea un jurnal, nici conținutul acestuia.
Deci, pot deține în acest scop un caiețel fabulos, de culoare vișinie, cu pagini gălbui și copertă ca de poveste, reprezentând un erudit sau un magician cu niște ochelari drăguți, o pălărie foarte înaltă, cu o carte imensă în față, pe care își odihnește mâinile aproape ireale, cu degete lungi-lungi. Stă într-un balon cu aer cald care se ridică sau coboară.
Așa a fost să fie jurnalul meu, exact ca în cazul acelor relații pe alocuri neplăcute din majoritatea romanelor pe care le citeam noi, fetele tinere, cu scopul de a însuși corespunzător știința de a îmbrățișa pe deplin viitoarele noastre catastrofe, de a ne azvârli în ele..
Doar că acum știu și secretul păstrării unei cantități mari de secrete și în caz că cineva ar găsi obiectul, acest veritabil corpus delicti: un scris de mână incredibil, foarte aproape de o hidoșenie științifică. Ca de doctor, aș zice dacă aș dori să-mi romanțez rușinea.
Oricum, adevărul este că realmente îmi place gândul unui jurnal cu o copertă eterică, având un conținut surprinzător, dar și dezolant, în anumite aspecte – frumusețe idealizată și urâțenie realistă, umăr la umăr.
I’m 42 and I’m not romanticizing anymore the idea of having a diary, neither its contents.
So, now I can have an amazing claret booklet for that purpose with yellowish pages and a fairytale-like drawing on its cover representing a scholar or a magician with very pretty eyeglasses, an immensely tall hat and a huge book on which he rests his almost unreal hands with long, long fingers. He is sitting in an ascending or descending hot-air balloon.
It was simply meant to be, just like all those nasty relationships in most of the novels we’ve read as young girls, with the purpose of assimilating properly the knowledge of how to fully engage in and embrace future catastrophes…
But now also know the secret of keeping a great deal of secrets even if somebody might find the object, the corpus delicti: having an unimaginably, almost scientifically awful handwriting. As doctors do, I could say if I would want to romanticise disgrace.
Despite all that, the truth is that I simply like the idea of a diary with an ethereal cover having a totally surprising and somewhat desolating content – idealistic beauty and realistic ugliness, side by side.
The herbs are: honeysuckle, rose, hawthorn. I used a sewing needle to make a string for these materials and pierce into the first map, to symbolise the Punctum from my childhood memory and from my hometown Wuhan.
Honeysuckle is often used as medicine and tea, to cure bacterial infections, to counteract poisoning and to kill germs.
Rose is used mainly for making tea and claimed to offer numerous health benefits such as boosting the metabolism, helping relieve pain during periods and helping in the treatment of anxiety and diabetes.
Hawthorn is used as medicine. It’s good for balancing heart rhythm disorder and used for digestive disorders by breaking down fats.
About the culture and mysterious effect of herbs I learnt from my grandfather. He was a herbal researcher, a kung-fu practicer and a healer. He helped hundreds of people using herbal therapy, QiGong exercise, and also by his impressive speech about Chinese classical philosophy. He worked as a headmaster of a local school, and he went to mountains every year to meditate on spiritualism. I have tried herbal therapy some years ago in order to build up my body strength and it was like drinking special soup everyday. I didn’t adhere to it, simply because the flavor is too bitter for me.